What is happening around here? Who the fuck let all of these little badasses into the Northwest winemaking scene? A cadre of producers is changing the face of wine in the US and representing a new facet to the rest of the winemaking world, making choices that say: Fuck the higher alcohol levels, fuck the cultured yeasts, fuck the added sulfites, fuck all that new wood—I'm putting out something that is more authentic, truer to the land where it is grown, and actually tastes like wine! Memaloose Wines, Teutonic Wine Company, Minimus Wines, Kelley Fox Wines, Division Winemaking Company, Bow & Arrow Wines: These are a handful of producers taking a new (which is actually old) approach to their winemaking. They may be picking earlier, using less to no sulphur; they may be planting in cooler sites like the Columbia Gorge, or at higher elevations closer to the coast like the Coastal Range in Oregon. There has been a dawning realization, a different way of thinking, here in the Northwest that maybe you don't have to manipulate the fuck out of the must (or fermenting grape juice)—you can keep the acids higher and the potential alcohols lower, which actually allows you to taste the food you're eating while you drink a bottle of wine, instead of being overpowered by a huge, alcoholic fruit cocktail.
Not that there haven't been producers of this seemingly new ilk in the Northwest all along. But with the changing attitudes as to what constitutes "good" wine, fissures have formed in the tectonic plates of the winemaking world and, through the cracks, new life is emerging. A few examples are pictured above—Kelley Fox 2012 Mirabai Pinot Noir, $38; Memaloose 2010 Mistral Ranch, $22; Minimus 2011 No. 5 Reduction, $33; and Teutonic 2011 White Wine, $32 (available at Vif, Pike & Western, Bottlehouse, and Bar Ferd'nand)—and while they're not cheap, they're not going to keep you from making rent, either. Think about it—it's not a bad price for a bottle of something great, produced in small quantities by someone who actually lives what they do.
Marc Papineau, The Stranger's wine columnist, is the owner of Bar Ferd'nand and wine director of the London Plane. He likes wine.